Intended for healthcare professionals


Growth charts for babies

BMJ 2005; 330 doi: (Published 16 June 2005) Cite this as: BMJ 2005;330:1399
  1. Charlotte M Wright, senior lecturer (
  1. Department of Child Health, Glasgow University PEACH Unit, QMH Tower, Yorkhill Hospitals, Glasgow G3 8SJ

    New WHO charts are based on breast fed babies from rich and poor countries

    Are the growth charts that we currently use inaccurate? Recent press reports about new growth charts from the World Health Organization imply that they are, particularly for breast fed babies. These charts are an exciting development, but are our current charts really as inadequate as the press would have us believe?

    The first widely used growth reference in the United Kingdom was produced nearly 40 years ago,1 followed by the chart from the National Center for Health Statistics in the United States,2 which has been used ever since as WHO's international standard. These established the value of plotting measurements on growth charts in order to properly assess growth and nutritional status. However, problems with their accuracy were recognised 20 years ago; the growth of breast fed and formula fed infants, when plotted on either chart, rose steadily in the first few weeks and then fell by around one centile space (2/3 standard deviation).3 This is possibly because most of the children on whom the charts were based …

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